Tag Archives: Mid-life

Slices of Happy

“What’s wrong with going on a cruise?” I asked.  It was my mother’s favorite way to vacation, and she was inviting her daughter and son-in-law to go along.

“It’s conspicuous consumption,” answered the left-wing, anti-establishment, neo-hippie, who was still my husband at the time.  “You’re just spending a lot of money because you can, when there are people starving in the world.”

“It’s not a lot of money.  First off, we’re being invited, and second, my mother’s getting a pretty serious discount from her travel agent friend.”

“No,” he insisted.  We continued to go back and forth until he ended the argument by telling me it wasn’t the end of the world; I’d have many more opportunities to go on a cruise with my mother.  He was wrong.

Tomorrow marks the end of my forty-fifth year on this planet, and to this day, I feel guilty if I spend money on myself for something I don’t need. The only exception to that is buying a good meal on date night with my honey.  Today, I decided it’s time to get over that.  Sometimes there aren’t many more opportunities to do something that you really want to do, something that you know would make you happy.  Missing my mother, particularly around a holiday or a birthday, inevitably leads me to two thoughts: tomorrow isn’t promised to me; and there’s never enough time.

I was thinking the latter on the way home from kung fu tonight.  Though my right arm – the one that has to spin the staff and the sword – is now requiring a certain amount of finesse to raise it to shoulder level or higher, and my left knee cramped up tonight in a completely unfamiliar way, I still wanted more practice time.  I always have to get home before school closes, and even if there were no family members waiting, the morning alarm clock would still be calling me home for food, shower and at least five hours of sleep before the wake-up call sounds.  My dream day, without getting on an overseas flight, would include being able to do kung fu until I’m done, until I actually want to stop.  I suspect that to bring that to fruition would require owning my own school; so it will have to remain a dream.  Meanwhile, I can stop wasting time and denying myself slices of happy for fear of being considered irresponsible, or, perhaps, a conspicuous consumer.

Today, I reserved a room and bought tickets to Fort Lauderdale.  Barring something unforeseen and out of my control, I’m going to the “Winter Classic” kung fu tournament.  This is the last year that my age puts me in what should be a fair-sized group of competitors.  Next year, at the ripe old age of forty-six, I will be in the senior citizens group, one with so few competitors that they put the men and women together to assure an opponent.

So this is the best year left for me to see what kind of kung fu stuff I’m made of.  I should go to as many tournaments as I can reasonably afford.  And that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

The Unexpected

At about 1:10 on Saturday afternoon, I engaged in embarrassingly age-inappropriate behavior.  In a room full of people, all but three of whom were younger than I, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a six-year-old who’d just been handed tickets to Disney World.  I was giddy, and I didn’t care who knew it.  I trust the world is still turning.

“I learned something new!  I learned something new!”  I half whispered, half squealed to my better half, sounding as young to myself as the green sash who was backing out the door into the sunlight.

One might think that learning something new at a school is a normal state of affairs, but it’s not.  The higher ranked someone is in our school, the greater the likelihood they’ve been working on just one or two forms for a year or more, as I have for eleven months.  There is now something new to practice.  But that alone wasn’t the source of the happiness that stayed with me all day.

Something akin to a flash mob sprung up at self-training, and it included every black sash in the room.  A Siheng that we only see at holiday time mentioned that he was practicing a Xing Yi form a few days earlier.  That’s a style that several of the more senior black sashes have wanted to learn for a while.  Today was their chance, and it turned out to be infectious.

The Siheng training for national trials may have wanted a break from his exhausting routine.  The most recently-promoted black sash may have been happy to conclude his sparring instruction for the green sashes.  I may simply have wanted to give my knees a more manageable looking challenge. Whatever the reason, we all fell in line, one by one, before the mirror, behind Siheng B.

We looked, unchoreographed, as if we were practicing for a performance.  In fact, we wound up with the sanshou class as our audience, as they awaited the floor space we occupied.  The six of us were only able to learn a third of the form before being displaced, but that was enough to leave each of us with a smile, for we all now have a new itch to scratch.

It’s really the little things that make something memorable, being in the right place at the right time, being open to the unexpected and the unplanned.  It’s taking advantage of the new when it’s offered, even if it doesn’t seem to have a practical application to the current lesson or game plan.  It’s being okay with not acting your age when a moment truly thrills you.  That’s what I gleaned from a twenty-minute block of time on Saturday afternoon.  And it simply left me giddy.

Something in the Water

Self-training tonight could best be described as out of rhythm but back in step.  I didn’t regain the complete groove with the long staff form until I’d done it about a dozen times, but it was good to be back in the only place I’m able to practice it.  The key question of the evening was: would the shot alone provide relief? Unfortunately, the answer was no – and it was clear rather quickly.  So out came an over-the-counter pain reliever for the first time in two days.  The good news, though, is that the knees held up fantastically without the arthritis meds.  So, it would appear the shot to the back works better on the knees.

Okay.  I’ll take it!

Now, if only I didn’t have to return to work Friday.  And if only I knew whether to take as a sign this persistent, increasingly-overbearing reluctance to get up at dawn every morning, to commute an hour to a job that countless people would love to have, that it’s time to do something different.  It could quite simply be a clear indication to come up with a better way of commuting.  But I don’t think so.

I don’t know a single adult black sash at our school working a job they don’t want to do.  There are many who are still students working part-time gigs that they’ll be happy to dispense with when the time comes, but no one with an established career who wants to be somewhere else.  It’s possible that some are concealing their professional unhappiness, but it doesn’t seem likely they’d be able to do so for long with a group of people who’ve known them for years and who see them several times a month, at the very least.

No, I think there’s something in the water, something in the air of a kwoon, guăn, dojo (whatever word one chooses for martial arts training place), some kind of change that takes place in the mind of the martial artist – particularly one that makes it all the way to black – that makes settling for less a particularly difficult thing to do.  This, too, is why I love this crazy compulsion.

Onward!  Only…when?